CopShock: Second Edition
Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR

Fighting the System

Article by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR
Author of CopShock, Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

                                                  Before reading this article, please read "Police PTSD Lawsuit."

Too often police officers are ignored or denounced for saying they need help. Sometimes they get it, often they don't.

When they don't get help and are forced to sue their department, the city or Workers' Compensation, then they must find strength within themselves to fight to the end.

Every few weeks I receive a phone call or email from a police officer who is engaged in a battle with the department or with Workers' Comp. They often don't know what to do. The Workers' Comp psychologists say the officers are faking PTSD symptoms, are malingerers, just want a free ride. The officers' psychologists say they have PTSD and can no longer function as police officers, as in David Mogel's situation.

Be Prepared To Fight
The first piece of advice I give officers who contact me is to be prepared for a fight, at a time in your life when all you want is peace, kindness, caring and time to heal, not a battle. Nevertheless, a fight is what you will get.

Your Claim Is Usually Denied
First off, if you apply to Workers' Compensation for benefits or attempt to acquire a disability pension based on a PTSD claim, you will likely be denied. You will be denied NOT because you do not have a legitimate claim. You will be denied NOT because you do not have PTSD. You will be denied because the whole issue, for the insurer, is money.

It's Just Business
For them, "It's nothing personal, just business."

They Wear You Down
They will deny you benefits because they want to wear you out and wear you down so you will give up the claim and go away. I've never heard of anybody getting benefits the first time they make a claim. In many cases, you will be denied repeatedly until your only recourse is to file a lawsuit like David Mogel did.

Getting An Attorney
Filing a lawsuit takes resources, financial and emotional, but many attorneys will figure out a way to help you. If you must sue or get representation, be sure to seek out an attorney who has experience dealing with Workers' Compensation or its equivalent. If he or she understands PTSD, all the better. Many attorneys have acquired my book, CopShock, to familiarize themselves with the concepts and solutions.

They Want You To Give Up
Another important piece of advice I give officers seeking benefits or who are being forced to sue: DO NOT GIVE UP. That's what they want you to do. But chances are good that you will succeed. The past couple of years, I've heard from several officers who won their cases based on a PTSD disability claim.

Be Ready For Battle
Be ready for battle. Be aware that your life will be examined, that you will be vilified, chastised, criticized, denigrated, defamed, intimidated and belittled. Their purpose is to break you down so you will go away. Your purpose is to stand tall and know that you are right and will succeed.

What It Was Like To Testify
I was asked to be an expert witness by David Mogel's attorney. My part of the trial was actually a telephone interview with the attorneys from both sides, the Judge and Officer Mogel. Not as dramatic as being in the courtroom and taking the stand, but, as it turned out, dramatic enough.

First, Officer Mogel's attorney asked me to give an overview of how PTSD affects police officers, the symptoms, and whether shooting somebody is part of the job and should not be "rewarded" with a disability pension, as the opposition declared.

I explained that based on my 6 years of research, PTSD is an on-the-job killer, and officers with severe PTSD need counseling. I had compiled an enormous amount of research for CopShock and had interviewed nearly 200 police officers diagnosed with PTSD.

As far as the assertion that shooting someone is part of the job, that is baloney.

Shooting Someone Not Part Of The Job
To prove my point, I quoted facts and figures available on the FBI website showing that a line of duty shooting is extremely rare.

You Experience Normal Reactions
Furthermore, I provided evidence that nobody, no matter how well trained, is prepared emotionally for killing another person, no matter how justified the reason. Cops often think that violence is normal and reacting emotionally is abnormal. In fact, it's the other way round. Violence is abnormal. Feeling something is normal.

Anger, Helplessness, Flashbacks, Depression, Conflict, Alcohol Abuse, Reckless Behavior...
Our reactions to violence can take the form of unexplained anger, anxiety about future encounters, helplessness, hopelessness, intruding thoughts and flashbacks, sleep difficulties, depression, fear of losing control, nightmares, family conflict, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual difficulties, suicidal thinking, reckless behavior, mood swings, inability to concentrate, irritability and many other possible symptoms. We may also react to violence by not appearing to react at all, by being numb and unresponsive. That too is normal for our species.

Cross-Examination... Ouch!
Following my testimony, the other side's attorney was then given an opportunity to take a whack at me, to cross-examine. And it wasn't pretty.

The Attack
She said I wasn't qualified to speak. I wasn't a doctor, I wasn't this and I wasn't that. I reminded her that having been an investigative journalist for more than 14 years, I was exceptionally qualified. In addition, as the author of a PTSD book that took 6 years of research, a book that is considered the ultimate guide on police PTSD, that is read around the world, that is used in law enforcement college courses and in peer support units throughout America, and was the basis for an A&E Television Network documentary, I was infinitely qualified to talk about my findings, research and experience.

Just The Facts
In addition, I said that not being a doctor was in my favor. When LAPD Detective Bill Martin asked me to write the book, he said that cops wanted to read a book written by someone objective, without an axe to grind, who didn't represent the establishment, who would not take sides and would just give the facts, ma'am, just the facts, like Sergeant Friday used to say on the old TV series, Dragnet.

I said that I told Officer Mogel's attorney that I was going to tell the truth and that my testimony would not necessarily help Officer Mogel, and might even work against him.

Officer Mogel Won His Case!

I was not the only expert witness who testified. In her Findings, the Judge ruled in favor of Officer Mogel, finding the testimony of the three expert witnesses, mine included, to be more "correct" or credible than what the Workers' Compensation attorney had elicited or presented.

Officer David Mogel won his case.

It's Not About You
With perseverance and determination, hopefully you can win, too. My last word of advice is: if you feel up to it emotionally, fight. Sometimes you just have to walk away, count your blessings, and reinvent your life. There's no shame in that. But if you decide to fight, here are some tips. Organize your support sources. Treat this as objectively as you can, like an assignment or project. Try to remove yourself emotionally and understand the other side's motivation. It's not about you. It doesn't matter to them if you are a good person. It doesn't matter to them how good a job you did in the past. It's about money. That's why you hire an attorney. They are used to fighting about money and getting the most for their clients.

Allen Kates's Availability
Kates no longer appears as an expert witness in court cases. However, he continues to conduct police seminars upon request and speaks at police functions. For more information, please click here.


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                                                                                                          Copyright © 2008, 2018, 2023 by Allen R. Kates